Ramayana has a lot for us to instruct on how to perceive things when we are put in a quandary. Killing of Vaali by Shri Rama which is elaborately mentioned in Kishkinda Khanda is one such episode which had made me think a lot on the how Shri Rama could differentiate Nyaya and Niti to decide on what He has to do.
Rakshasha Kabandha advises Shri Rama to befriend Sugriva and help him as he is troubled by his brother Vaali. Vaali had abducted Ruma, wife of Sugriva and had driven him out of the kingdom. Shri Rama helped Sugriva by killing Vaali. Many doubt was it ethically or morally correct for Shri Rama to kill Vaali. Sage Valmiki covers all issues but leaves it to us to break the puzzle and understand. Superficially Sage Valmiki has penned everything against the action of Shri Rama.
Why would he do it???
Many authors overlook the ethical aspects in order to highlight the character, while some point out everything against the character and let the reader crown the character. When we look at Ramayana as a Kathanaka (Story) instead of the taking it as Itihasa (History) we miss this finer gradations.
According to Kabandha Vaali was not “Evil,” when he mentions about him to Shri Rama he says Vaali was “Angry” (Sugriva had thought Vaali was killed by Maayavi and assumed Kingship of Kishkinda). Sugriva had misjudged the situation and countermanded the instruction of Vaali. As punishment Vaali banished Sugriva and since they were Vanaras the “Alpha Male” traits was at display in taking Ruma. So Shri Rama was aware that Vaali was not wicked.
Sugriva too did not wish for Vaali’s death instead he asked Shri Rama to do whatever may deem it fit so that he is not troubled by his brother. But at the time of accepting friendship Shri Rama had already promised Sugriva that He will eliminate Vaali. Shri Rama made the promise to Sugriva before knowing the reason for enmity between Vaali and Sugriva. So what could be the reason that Rama passes death sentence to Vaali?
When invited by Sugriva to duel for the second time, Tara, wife of Vaali warns about Shri Rama. Vaali clearly says Shri Rama will not sin by killing him when he is fighting with Sugriva.
How could Shri Rama shatter the hopes of Vaali???
These are all ethical points that cropped up while reading Ramayana of Sage Valmiki which we need to contemplate upon.
In Sanskrit there are two distinct words Niti and Nyaya both relate to justice but these two are off separate concentrations and there is a basic distinction between them. Niti is a term used for organisational propriety and behavioural correctness. Nyaya stands for a more comprehensive concept of realised justice. For Example, we have Matsyanyaya “Rule of the Fish” big fish devouring the small fish. There is no Niti (Ethics) here. If the big fish feels for the small fish then it will have to starve. When looking at an issue from Nyaya angle Niti should not be a hindrance.
Vaali wanted the Kingdom for himself and Sugriva had to hide in Rishimukha hills where Vaali was not permitted. While taking over the Kingdom he had taken Ruma too showing his “Animal Instinct.” Shri Rama did not approve it. Vaali also sought to have extended help to find Sita. But Shri Rama was not impressed that coming from the mouth of a “Wife Stealer.”